The ESA Has Failed

Note: the following letter from member organizations of the American Wildlife Conservation Partners (AWCP) [here] to Sec Int Ken Salazar points out multiple failures of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and calls on the Federal Government (all Branches) to “review and modernize” the ESA.

May 2, 2011

To The Honorable Ken Salazar
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240

Dear Secretary Salazar: The undersigned organizations are members of the American Wildlife Conservation Partners (AWCP), which represents millions of Americans who actively hunt and fish and support fish and wildlife conservation. We believe the time has come for Congress and the Department of the Interior to review and modernize the Endangered Species Act (ESA) so that it can more effectively recover species, better focus the Department’s limited resources, reduce and discourage costly litigation and lessen the regulatory burden on businesses to foster job creation. At the recent North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Kansas City, Missouri, you called for the ESA to be reformed, saying the Act was “unmanageable and unproductive.”

The primary goal of the ESA has been to recover species at risk of extinction. Unfortunately the ESA has failed in its species recovery efforts. Currently there are over 2000 species listed as “threatened” or “endangered” while only 20 recovered species have been removed from these lists since the ESA was enacted. A key example of this is the gray wolf in the Northern Rocky Mountains and Western Great Lakes. By all possible counts, these gray wolf populations have greatly exceeded their recovery goals and should be lauded as one of the ESA’s few great successes. Ironically, the ESA itself has now become the barrier to delisting these recovered wolves. Protectionist organizations have persuaded the courts to interpret the language of the ESA in such a way that delisting these recovered animals has become impossible. Congressional action outside of the ESA has become necessary to deal with the ESA’s failure.

Gray wolves, which continue to be listed under the ESA, are so abundant that they are decimating elk herds and are mercilessly attacking livestock and pets. Public confidence in the ESA and wolf conservation is plummeting among the communities who must live with wolf populations. Without public support, recovery efforts for endangered and threatened species are bound to fail. For these reasons, the undersigned groups encourage the Department of Interior (DOI) and Congress to work together to review and modernize the ESA so that recovery and delisting of recovered species are properly prioritized and so that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service can carry out their recovery and delisting obligations expeditiously and without unnecessary and burdensome litigation.
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